City is ‘not shying away’ from Willets Point development project, EDC president says

Photo rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

The conversation surrounding a long-delayed controversial $3 billion Flushing development plan continued with a response from the city last Friday.

At its quarterly Willets Point development meeting on June 26, the Community Board 7 Building and Zoning Committee expressed dissatisfaction with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the mayor’s office for not sending representatives to attend and answer questions about the project. The board followed up with a letter to the EDC and Borough President Melinda Katz, asking for action, not apologies, from the city agency, who they said had ample notice to send a rep.

EDC President James Patchett responded with his own letter to the community board on July 7. Addressed to board chairman Eugene Kelty and first vice chair Chuck Apelian, Patchett says that the city agency was unable to send a representative “on such short notice,” and would have caused the city agency to “cancel a confirmed meeting with another Queens community organization.”

Patchett also says that the city, which still owns the majority of the land to be developed, has completed substantial building abatement and demolition at the site to prepare for the project.

“The administration is not shying away from the plan to transform the 23 acres of vacated property at Willets Point into a vibrant mixed-income residential and commercial neighborhood,” Patchett writes. “We steadfastly believe there is a need to increase the stock of quality, affordable housing and amenities that meet the needs of this community.”

“We look forward to meeting with the Community Board in the fall once there is new information to share on next steps,” he closes.

The project, proposed by the Queens Development Group LLC (QDG) and given the green light in 2013, was again stalled on June 6 after the New York State Court of Appeals announced that it would not be able to move forward with its first phase without approval from state legislature. The first phase of the proposal, labeled “Willets West,” includes plans for a mega mall to be built on public parkland. Full plans include a shopping mall, hotel, movie theater, public school and affordable housing.

“Following the recent NYS Appellate Court decision, we have been in close coordination with City Hall to evaluate next steps for this critical project to provide affordable housing and neighborhood amenities in an area that had seen a history of disinvestment and neglect,” the EDC president said.

QNS reached out to Community Board 7 for comment and is awaiting a response.